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Home The Decades 1970s President Nixon's Resignation

President Nixon's Resignation

VAV!/August 9, 2011

In a national televised address on the evening of August 8, 1974, President Nixon announced his decision to resign as United States President. August 9, 1974 at noontime, President Richard Nixon's resignation was official. The President had been facing the possibility of certain impeachment and removal from office for the Watergate scandal.

What was The Watergate Scandal  that took place during the decades of the 1970s?

The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States as a result of the targeted June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at  the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC.  

The burglars, five men, were Bernard Baker, James W. McCord, Jr., Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinex and Frank Sturgis who were all linked to officials of Nixon's 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President.

Soon following the break in, the FBI, Watergate Committee officials, and media investigations by journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both of the Washington Post, discovered these burglars were linked to officials of President Nixon's 1972 Committee to Re-elect the President.  The  investigations revealed illegal activities, wiretaps, and campaign 'tricks' undertaken in connection with Nixon and his staff.  (Perhaps the most intriguing source in the ever unfolding events of the Watergate Scandal was "Deep Throat," the name that referenced a senior contact that Bob Woodward counted upon in the investigating of Watergate. It was later revealed that Deep Throat was Mark Felt, deputy director of the FBI.)

As a result of these incriminating findings, several administration officials resigned. E. Howard Hunt, Jr. and G. Gordon Liddy were indicted for burglary, conspiracy, and violations of federal wiretapping laws in connection with the burglary. Former Attorney General John Mitchell was convicted of offenses connected with the break-in.

President Nixon vehemently denied any involvement with the Watergate Burglary. He was named an "unindicted coconspirator" at that time because Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski advised the grand jury that in his opinion a sitting President could not be indicted. In his view, the House Judiciary Committee was the appropriate body under the Constitution for examining evidence relating to the President.

The House Judiciary Committee pursued its constitutional mandate and drew up five articles of impeachment, three of which they approved in the summer of 1974. When the President was forced by the Supreme Court in August 1974 to surrender tape recordings that revealed his knowledge of the cover-up, even his staunchest supporters in the House admitted that they would have to vote in favor of impeachment. On August 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency and became citizen Richard Nixon.

Watergagte-memo-1

Pictured above: Justice Department Memorandum Considering Indictment of Richard M. Nixon/Page 1/Record Group 460/Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force/National Archives and Records Administration

Watergate-memo-02

Pictured above: Justice Department Memorandum Considering Indictment of Richard M. Nixon/Page 2/Record Group 460/Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force/National Archives and Records Administration

Thus, for the second time the Watergate Special Prosecutor's Office faced the question of whether or not to seek an indictment. Article I, section 3, clause 7 of the Constitution provides that a person removed from office by impeachment and conviction "shall nevertheless be liable to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to the Law." But there are no guidelines in the Constitution about a President who has resigned. The memorandum shown above is typical of others in this file. It outlines reasons for and against pursuing an indictment against Richard Nixon. It is taken from Records Relating to Richard M. Nixon, Records of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, Record Group 460.

resignation of Richard M Nixon

Pictured above: Richard M. Nixon's letter resigning the Presidency, August 9, 1974/National Archives

Following Nixon's resignation, Vice President Gerald Ford became president of the United States. On September 8, 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon for "all offenses against the United States" which Nixon "has committed or may have committed or taken part in" during his presidency.

Nixon responded with an issued statement in which he said that he regretted "not acting more decisively and forthrightly in dealing with Watergate."

 

Regarding Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's loyal secretary and the 18 1/2 Minute Gap

 Rosemary Woods Watergate

 Pictured above: President Richard Nixon's secretary Rose Mary Woods demonstrates the backwards-leaning stretch with which she erased eighteen-and-a-half minutes of a key Watergate conversation recorded on White House tapes/NSA Archives

Meeting on the morning of June 20, 1972  at 11:30, Nixon and Haldeman discussed the Watergate situation as it was unfolding. A secret White House taping system (earlier installed by Nixon's request) recorded the 69-minute conversation..

Later, in November 1973, investigators searched for Watergate–White House leads, and discovered an 18 1/2 minute portion of the conversation was missing.

Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's secretary conceded that she had erroneously made an erasure on the tape of between 5 1/2 to 6 minutes during a telephone call. What remained on the tape of those 18 1/2 minutes were... http://nixontapeaudio.org/watergate/342-016a_gap.mp3

In 1974, an advisory panel of scientists assessed the tape and reported that the 18½-minute gap consisted of five to nine erasures "made with Woods'Uher-5000 tape recorder. Woods' tape recorder was found to have a faulty bridge rectifier that served to convert the AC power to DC, when this component failed during testing it was replaced and the faulty component was tossed in the trash—a critical error." - Cracking Watergate

 

Resources:

Archives.gov

Forensic Mag.


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